IKEA Spain’s Christmas Ad Creates Buzz Without Being Pushy

After a season filled with successful holiday ads, IKEA Spain has released a last-minute dark horse in the race to be the most talked about Christmas spot. “The Other Letter,” created McCann Spain, has garnered worldwide attention for IKEA without ever really mentioning the brand.

IKEA Spain’s video spot, “The Other Letter,” is a simple experiment. Children are asked to write letters to the “Three Kings” (the Spanish equivalent of Santa Claus), describing what they’d like for Christmas. The children name material gifts such as toys and games. But when asked to write a second letter to their parents asking for gifts, the children ask for time instead of things, requesting stories and dinners together.

According to creative general manager at McCann Spain Mónica Moro, the campaign has struck a nerve globally and the ad has been viewed more than 8 million times, which is exactly the sort of universal engagement the brand was courting.

“At Christmas, we spend a lot of time consuming and buying instead of spending time with people we love, especially our kids,” says Moro. “In Spain, and also in the rest world, we spend millions on presents, but we don’t spend enough time with our children. Then we pay with our guilt by buying more stuff.”

Asking customers to buy less instead of more seems like a counterproductive strategy, but Gabriela Diaz-Guardamino, marketing manager for IKEA Spain, says that “The Other Letter” was more about associating the brand with the idea of home than selling furniture.

“The main objective was engagement with people,” Diaz-Guardamino says. “We don’t sell to people. People buy from us. That’s why our starting point was recreating everyday life for [our customers].”

Taking the brand out of the letter experiment probably did more to create engagement than producing a heavily branded traditional ad, according to Kristin Kovner, president of K-Squared Strategies. “Stories that are engaging and emotional to watch keep the viewer’s interest to the last frame, which is every marketer’s goal,” says Kovner.

“By making the story relevant to the brand’s values – in this case, the importance of family at Christmas – the piece rings true and feels authentic, generating goodwill for the brand. The added ‘Aha!’ of using IKEA furniture and the clever tag line is a bonus, not an afterthought, but certainly secondary to the story, and done in a subtle way.”

But David Simon, chief marketing officer (CMO) of Pointroll, believes that the tagline could have been overkill in such a gentle, emotional ad. “The message of the spot is clear – kids want more time with parents than anything on their wish list. Ikea is trying to align themselves with the best part of that message – family matters – time with family matters,” says Simon. “The text makes the message smaller. It’s not a soft sell like the others. Leave furniture out of it. We know who you are. Tell us you help families create loving homes where they can be together. Tell us you can’t wait to get home and hug your kids, too.”

Moro says the tagline isn’t intended to push IKEA at viewers, but rather it’s meant to further integrate IKEA’s brand philosophy with the universal importance of home and family. “In Spanish we have this saying, ‘To have one’s head furnished.’ It means a person has a clear point of view, a very good idea about life,” says Moro. “So for us, at Christmas, saying ‘Furnish your head,’ is saying that Christmas makes a mess of our values sometimes. And we wanted IKEA to be a brand that makes an impact on the way we think.”

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